In an effort to boost the development drive in the North, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday called upon all local politicians and civil society activists to join the efforts of the Government to bring in investment to the Northern Province.
“We would like to start infrastructure development now. Rebuilding, resettlement and reconciliation is going on. Now let us look at growth oriented, job creating development in Jaffna. We must all get together to resolve the issues in the province because the lowest economic growth is coming from the Northern Province. We have to make a massive effort, and get big investments to Jaffna,” he said, adding that although some apparel sector factories have been established, no major investments have been made in the province.
In order to halt the growing unemployment numbers, the Premier promised 1,000 jobs to unemployed graduates in the two provinces in a bid to address the worsening employment issues there.
“Today, looking at the issue of unemployed graduates in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, we have decided to find vacancies for 1,000 graduates in development and teaching services in the two provinces,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who met with political leaders and civil society activists in the Jaffna Peninsula to discuss development issues and challenges, said that the former conflict zones needs special focus to drive economic development.
“On the one hand, all the consequences of the war have still not been sorted out. As I said there are issues related to land and missing persons which we have to sort out. At the same time, new issues have cropped up. Not only in Northern and Eastern provinces but also in the rest of the country, there are economic problems and problems with creating employment, increasing jobs and incomes. This is the issue Sri Lanka has to face,” he said, addressing the local politicians who were present at the meeting.
Stressing that Northern Province is one of the most difficult regions to develop, Wickremesinghe said that plans need be drawn up to provide skills training for unemployed youth, including school leavers to make them employable as companies willing to invest in the province have highlighted the dearth in employable youth.
To boost economic growth through infrastructure development, the Government also plans to build an expressway in the province with the assistance of the Indian government, Wickremesinghe said. This in turn is expected to generate much needed employment opportunities, he claimed.
“We have already discussed with India to develop the road system in Northern Province, from Jaffna to Mannar, Mannar to Vavuniya and Vavuniya to Trincomalee. This can be later connected to the Central Expressway which is under construction. These large scale development projects will also create employment opportunities as well,” he said.
The Government has also set up a working group to evaluate possible development projects and liaise with necessary parties to generate funding and implement the projects.
The Northern Province should also look at developing tourism, the Prime Minister highlighted, adding that the Task Force on Tourism will be visiting the province to explore new opportunities.
Revealing plans of establishing economic zones to attract investors to the province, he said that although the zones may be located outside of the Peninsula due to limitations in access to water and other resources, youth from the area will be able to obtain employment in the economic zones.
“Industrialisation must commence in the area,” Wickremesinghe stressed.